Here's an environmental paradox: The globally tweaked drought seasons are cutting down on the number of days L.A. shores are closed due to polluted runoff. That doesn't mean our sands are cleaner, just that there's less rain-fueled backwash to dirty them. According to a report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 2008 had 10 percent fewer days of beach closures in the U.S., thanks to drier summers in California,  Hawaii and the Eastern Seaboard from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico — and less money for beach monitoring.

The overall health of American beaches remains dire, however. The NRDC claims that for the fourth consecutive year the length of collective shore closures has topped 20,000 days. The NRDC report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at

Vacation Beaches,” contains an interactive map rating the nation's 200

most popular beaches according to a star system. A separate scorecard of these beaches shows that many L.A. shorelines experienced pollution-closure days — the stretch of Santa Monica State Beach near its pier, for example, failed to meet safe water standards 43 percent of the time in 2008. On the bright side, though, such L.A.-area beaches as Bolsa Chica, Newport and Laguna made the enviro group's list of clean, Five Star beaches.

As the report's authors aridly note, however, “relying on dry weather to

keep contaminated runoff from polluting beachwater is not a

long term public health protection strategy; when the rains return, so do the beach closings and advisories.”

LA Weekly